Internal Server Error

what the voices in my head tell me to write

Monday, November 25, 2013

Stoic Week starting thoughts 

I have been interested in Stoicism for about 2 years since reading a review of "A guide to the good life" on boingboing. I had first come across Stoicism 20 plus years before then at uni as part of my environmental science degree. To be honest I remember Stoicism was mentioned in one environmental philosophy lecture but I tended to be very hung over in those lectures as they fell at 9am after a big student night in one of the clubs in the town.

I always had philosophy in general in the back of my head. Every now and then I would read a "pop philosophy" book of one sort or another. A few years ago I worked with a couple of people who were active members of a philosophy society in Bath (one of whom is now a philosophy lecturer) which got me reading and thinking a bit more than before.

Stoicism had an immediate appeal. It just seemed to make sense. The whole concept of virtue, indifferents etc. seemed to make a lot of sense straight away. I got a copy of the Meditations and devoured it (leant it to someone who didnt give it back...) Since then I have read Seneca, Epicetus and a few other secondary sources such as Sneddons course.

All this reading has deepened my thinking and understanding. I am not actually one for memorising quotes and precepts but I try to think how a Stoic sage would approach a given situation and behave accordingly. I have broadened my reading to Montaigne, Singer and other ethics secondary sources.

Last year I finally decided to see a therapist about my depression. I have suffered from this since my late teens off and on and I am currently on Prozac/fluoxitine and have been for a couple of years currently and have taken it in the past. I had a couple of sessions with the therapist and as I mentioned that I was actively studying stoicism, keeping a journal etc. she said that as she would advise CBT for me I might as well carry on with my Stoic practice and not worry about therapy or CBT. I find that stoic practices help a great deal with my depression. Mindfulness and the morning and evening meditations work well at focussing my mind. The whole only worry about things you can change is a big help... I don't obsess over things beyond my control any more.

Well thats a start.

Permanent link and Comments posted by Rob Cornelius @ Monday, November 25, 2013

Monday, May 30, 2011

the problem with going back to nature, down to the earth or whatever you call it 

I have just finished reading A handmade life by William Coperthwaite and while its central message of living a simple, non-violent life and co-operating with others is very commendable and laudable it is totally impractical.

Everyone in the first world cannot live on remote small holdings in the wilderness, living off the land and chopping our own firewood every day like the author. There are some exceptions like Neil Ansell in his book Deep Country. The plain fact is even in North America there is not enough space for everyone to live their lives like that. In Europe and especially overcrowded Britain there is definately not enough space.

The only people who can afford to buy enough land (apart from people who inherit it) are people who have made their money elsewhere from either employment, entreprenurship or pure blind luck. They can afford to grow their own fruit and vegetables, raise chickens and livestock, keep bees, bake their own bread and learn craft skills. They are rich in both money and time.

Most people in the developed world would probably enjoy quite a few aspects of this lifestyle. There is enough advertising of it in books like I have mentioned, on tv by people like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall in the uk (there must be simillar people elsewhere) and other forms of media.

How does someone living in a council flat in a city working for minimum wage with children to feed live this sort of life? Yes there are things such as allotments (in the uk at least, community gardens and the like but these are still not available to all. They cannot afford "artisan" made clothes, food or furnishings. They cannot afford to make them themselves and in any case have to work long hours to provide for their families. These people are poor in both time and money.

Even comparatively better off people like myself cannot afford to live such a lifestyle. I earn comfortably above the average wage and we are lucky to have a flat to live in provided by my wifes job so we have few outgoings really. We still would struggle to find the money to buy a small holding, especially in todays economic climate. Even if we did find somewhere we would not have the time to work at a "normal" job to be able to afford to absorb the running costs of the small holding such as buying tools, livestock etc.

Of course we can do what we can when we can. We can use what time and cash we have to try and live a better life and we do that. We garden, we try to shop responsibly and locally, we recycle, we only buy clothes when we need to replace worn out items.

Some may say that this is the point. Everyone does what they can in their own way. This is of course commendable. I firmly believe that it is elitist and also self defeating in some respect. Perhaps the difficulty in actually trying to live the good life puts people off. Perhaps there is a revolution needed in finance, access to the land and skills but that is not going to happen. All the current finacial crisis has done is made the rich richer as the poor have bailed them out. They can live the good life one way or another if it is on a small holding or a mansion.

I would love to own a small holding in South Somerset where I was born and raised along with generations of my ancestors. Realistically the only way I can do this in the short term at least is to win the lottery.

Permanent link and Comments posted by Rob Cornelius @ Monday, May 30, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

why did I never think of this 

Its a common problem. You have something like a definition list and you want to float the elements instead of displaying vertically down the page. That normally works fine for a 2 column layout where the dt is on the left and the dd on the right. Just add a "clear: left" to the dt. But what if you want to float all the elements so they just flow, and to make it extra hard the elements can be any width and the dt must always be next to the dd on the same "line".

JQuery to the rescue! first of all I created the following html structure

<dl class="content">
    <dt class="foo">Key</dt>
    <dd class="foo">Value</dt>
    <dt class="bar">Key</dt>
    <dt class="bar">Value</dt>

Next came the following JQuery

$('.content_context dt').each(function() {
     $(this).css('clear', 'none');
     dtOffset = $(this).offset();   
     ddOffset = $('dd.' + this.className).offset();
     if (ddOffset.top != dtOffset.top) {
        $(this).css('clear', 'left');

All this does is loop through the dt's in the list and check if their vertical offset is the same as the dd with the same classname. If its different (e.g. they are on different "lines" it adds a "clear: left" to the dt forcing it to be on the same "line" as the dd. Easy really.

Permanent link and Comments posted by Rob Cornelius @ Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thursday, February 17, 2011

sometimes you really do need the right tool for the job 

For quite a while now I have been trying to write a novel. Its more like a collection of short stories that kind of link together and cross over all around a common theme. Up to now I have basically been using a mixture of Evernote for research, a remote SVN for versioning and a remote project hosted at Projectlocker.com for cloud based svn and backup and of course vim as an editor.

Then recently I have been using JDarkroom to cut out the distractions of twitter, blogs, email, IM etc. (Pulling the network connection on your pc also works too)

The problem is that everything is becoming very complex with the novel. At the last count there are a dozen or so major locations and around 30 or so "major" characters, some of which turn up in several locations. None of it is strictly linear in terms of time either. Think a bit like Catch-22 but with no central Yossarian character to hang everything and everyone on.

Basically its got too complex to keep in my head and a bunch of text files. Then there is all the research for various things ranging from survival techniques to artificial intelligence. (the latter is a lot easier to make up than the former). After a lot of head scratching I remembered something about a program called Scrivener but I had remembered that it was Mac only. Now there is a windows version (beta only but hey) and I have had a good play with it. I think its perfect for what I need. I can arrange and re-arrange things in its outliner, store all the research in one spot and even set up the editor like JDarkroom. Now to import all my current stuff to it and add the project to SVN although it does versioning itself too the remote backup is good of course.

Hopefully this will be a big help for me. I am running out of steam a bit with the novel and I think this will enable me to get a good picture of what is going on in different threads of the story and help me tie up loose ends.

Permanent link and Comments posted by Rob Cornelius @ Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

the big problem with globalization 

Is that there are simply not enough resources to give every goat herder in something-stan the lifestyle of a Southern Californian, even some cheap white trash redneck or minor drug dealer in South Central LA. Once you have seen a couple of tv shows with people driving around in flash cars, drinking and eating all they want with guns, girls and blah blah blah.

The reverse is true. Very few people in the first world will willingly give up all the trappings of modern life. Many of us fantasize about giving it all up and living the good life off grid on a small holding surrounded by our animals and knitting our own yogurt. The nearest we get is buying some organic fruit and veg once in a while in a huge supermarket.

So what is to be done? There are the techno utopians who say that fusion power, renewables, new technology X will come along and save us all. Others believe in things like transition towns where we will all become middle class liberals living in quaint rural market towns working from home as middle managers or doing small cottage industries like picture framing or making little doodads from recycled bits of stuff and taking the bus everywhere.

Then there are of course the cynics who say its all gone to hell already and we are all doomed. Better watch a few Mad Max videos for handy tips and head for the hills with a few of your good buddies and lots of guns and wait for the hordes of starving refugees to turn up.

A great illustration of this was Bruce Parry's new show. It contrasted two First Nations tribes in Canada. The first lived in a very remote part of the Yukon. They still live a lifestyle thats very much in touch with nature, hunting caribou, duck and other game for their main source of food and living in small communities. The other tribe live in the middle of the Athabasca Tar Sands region and have made a small fortune for themselves with a plant hire and contracting buisness. Their chief is now the CEO of a multimillion dollar industry and can pay every man, woman and child in the tribe 10,000 dollars per year as a dividend. They now want to cut out the middleman entirely and go into the oil extraction business themselves.

Who can blame them for doing that. I am sure if the elders of the first tribe were told they were, literally, sitting on a gold mine things would change in short order.

The problem is there are not enough gold mines to go around...

Permanent link and Comments posted by Rob Cornelius @ Tuesday, February 01, 2011

    follow me on Twitter

    My recent photos


    Creative Commons License
    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

    RSS feeds and things

    Feed Button Help

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

    contact the author

    rob cornelius can be contacted by email use his name with an dot and googles web based email domain